Bear with Full Belly
From the collection of Museon (Museum of Science and Culture), The Hague
h 37 cm x w 11 cm
Nine-year-old Margreet Kuiper arrived at Camp Tjideng in Batavia with nothing. The last suitcase with any of her belongings was lost along the way. But then she found this teddy bear in the garbage. The Japanese, who occupied the Dutch East Indies in 1942, interned the Dutch in special camps. A reign of terror prevailed in Camp Tijdeng. Hunger and disease were rampant and in the absence of medicine, the death toll rose. In this difficult period Margreet cherished this teddy bear.
They were inseparable and she kept the bear for more than sixty years. Then during a ‘repairing bears’ workshop a surprising discovery was made. The bear felt rather heavy to the person giving the workshop. So they opened it up, pushed the straw stuffing aside and found that the bear was filled with coins. Margreet was amazed. ‘I had heard stories about people who hid their money in old mattresses when we were ordered to hand in everything to the Japs, but in a bear like this... I never suspected anything.’ It is not known if the original owner or family are still alive.